|By Christine Gillette|
Staff writer – Eagle Tribune
SALEM, Mass. — When it all came down to it, it was how well David Bean thinks on his feet that captured his company first place in the first North Shore Business Plan Competition.
Bean’s company, SemiNex Corp. of Middleton, was the winner of the $5,000 first prize Wednesday night. Taking second place and a $3,000 prize was BioPoint Solutions of Danvers, which has developed software to automate pre-clinical research in the drug discovery process. In third place, Custom Medicine of Beverly, which makes and sells compounded and other customized pharmaceuticals, won $2,000.
They were the top winners of the 24 businesses that participated in the first-ever competition, which kicked off in February. While the panel of a dozen judges reviewed the plans in writing, the head-to-head contest Wednesday night — presented before about 80 onlookers at Salem State College — was the deciding factor.
“It was very close,” said David Ives, chief executive officer of North Shore International Group/APEX Group Holdings, and one of the judges of the competition.
Each finalist was given 30 minutes to make their case, with the first 15 minutes going to the prepared presentation and the second to questions and answers from a three-judge panel.
Ives said the decision as to who won came down to how well the presenters addressed the panel’s impromptu questioning.
“I think they did the best job of answering questions put to them,” Ives said of SemiNex.
SemiNex is in the development phase on a high-power semiconductor laser that will be used in cosmetic procedures including reducing acne, wrinkles and scars. The technology uses a laser diode smaller than a grain of rice.
Although the company has two employees and a director now, SemiNex projects it will have 31 workers in two years and 100 in five, and Bean said he expects the company will stay in Middleton. As the winner of the competition, the company must have at least 10 employees in Essex County within two years.
“I think they could have the biggest potential economic impact,” judge Lars Swanson of BancBoston Ventures said.
Bean said the $5,000 first prize will go to help fund the production of a sample run of SemiNex’s product.
Contest runner-up Best Friends Bakery of Gloucester, which makes all-natural dog biscuits, did not present its business plan live Wednesday night, but still received a $1,000 prize. Based on the strength of its written business plan, organizers and judges decided to present a surprise honorable mention at the event.
Prior to the finals of the business plan competition Wednesday, an “elevator pitch” contest was held. The winner of the contest — in which an entrepreneur must offer a “compelling description” of their business in 90 seconds — was Powerhouse Enterprises.
In addition to the cash prizes awarded this week, organizers hope to find other ways to support all of the companies that competed going forward.
“I think we found a lot of wonderful companies,” said Christine Sullivan, executive director of the Enterprise Center at Salem State College, which organized the event with the North Shore Technology Council, Small Business Development Center, Cape Ann Business Incubator and the North Shore, Cape Ann, Beverly, Lynn Area, Marblehead, Peabody and Salem chambers of commerce.
Business sponsors were Eastern Bank and Banknorth. North Shore Business Plan judges
Henry Bertolon Jr., founder, NECX.com
David Baer, partner, Ruberto, Israel & Weiner, P.C.
C.W. Dick, managing director, Ascent Venture Partners
Tom Dusenberry, founder/chief executive officer, Call-It
David Ives, CEO, North Shore International
Group/APEX Group Holdings
John Shane, founder/president, Palmer Service Corp.
Joe Riley, senior vice president, Eastern Bank
Tom Riley, chairman/CEO, ConnectEdu
Leah Ritchie, associate professor, Salem State College
Lars Swanson, director, BancBoston Ventures
Cynthia Williams, partner, Dechert LLP